Reverend Chumleigh

He was born Michael Mielnik but in the early 1970s most people that lived in Eugene, Oregon knew him as a fire eating, joke cracking, vaudeville performer who called himself the Flaming Zucchini. It was a character he would reprise over the years, even after he rebranded himself at the Oregon Country Faire as the tightrope walking comedic cult leader of the Church of the Incandescent Resurrection.

Ladles and gentimen, I present to you . . . Reverend Chumleigh!

Reverend Chumleigh (actually a trio of madcap-characters-in-one that included Michael and the Flaming Zucchini) was a counterculture vaudevillian that excelled in captivating audiences with his snappy patter, playfully plucked from the Groucho Marx playbook, while engaged in daring acts of derring-do—such as walking barefoot on the business edges of machetes, laying on his back on a bed of nails, and balancing between two chairs while an audience member used a sledgehammer to smash a cinder block on his stomach.

His signature stunt as the Flaming Zucchini was fire-eating, until one fateful summer in 1976, while performing his act in front of a crowd of a thousand peyote-stoned hippies during the midnight show at the Oregon Country Faire, his liver organized a protest march decrying the dangers of hydrocarbons in his body, and he vanished in a huge ball of flame before the amazed fairgoers.

Yeoman Rand

This is Yeoman Janice Rand (aka Grace Lee Whitney), a character that appeared on the starship Enterprise, circa 1966.

She was sort of a glorified space secretary, assigned to Captain Kirk, that served on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Not exactly a feminist icon but nerd boys like me thought she was the tribble’s pajamas. Alas, her tenure lasted only a year before she was replaced by Ensign Chekov in season two of the original series.

I met Ms Whitney in 1977, in Eugene, Oregon, when she was one of the guests of honor at Space Con Five, which was also billed as a Star Trek Festival. I also met George Takei, her co-guest-of-honor and Bob Wilkins (the creator and host of Creature Features), who was the master of ceremony.

But, the biggest thrill for thirteen-year-old me was being Ms Whitney’s assistant when she was signing posters for fans at Gandalf’s Den, a bookstore and role playing game shop in The Atrium, a building on 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene. My job was to roll and rubber band posters after she signed them and hand them off to the fans.

Afterward, she treated me to an ice cream at Prince Pückler’s, on the ground floor of The Atrium, and then kissed me chastely on the cheek before saying goodbye.

The Eggsnatchur

It was a half a day’s drive from Aberdeen to Eugene in the Grey Elephant and we arrived at around three o’clock in the afternoon, parking our 1956 International Harvester Metro Van in front of a large house at the corner of 12th & Ferry, several blocks from the University of Oregon campus.

The summer heat that day was awful and the van had overheated more than once during the drive. We’d soon learn that our arrival in Eugene coincided with the hottest day on record. August 7, 1972 recorded a blistering temperature of 106° Fahrenheit.

Relieved to be released from the belly of the Elephant, we walked toward East 13th Avenue—my dad and I shirtless while Linda followed behind in the sun dress her sister had given her in Los Angeles.

Turning left on 13th, and staying on the left side of the street, we headed east until we reached a corner store at Patterson Street called Bob’s Superette, where we stopped to buy soda pop, sunflower seeds, and beef jerky. Just after crossing Patterson we passed by a dry cleaners next to a bookstore called Koobdooga and the next house over (an orange and brown American Craftsman house with a yellow porch) was the Eggsnatchur Natural Foods Restaurant run by the guys that were selling honey ice cream at the Renaissance Fair in Veneta last month.

The Mayflower Theater

This 600-seat single-screen cinema opened as the Colonial Theater on September 30, 1925 at 788 East 11th Avenue in Eugene Oregon and was renamed the Mayflower Theater on July 1, 1935. A year later, in 1936, the Robert Morton Pipe Organ installed in 1922 (used to play music from its 377 pipes to accompany silent movies that screened there for a decade) was sold to Riverside Community Church in Hood River, where it remained until 1973.

The first movie screened at the Colonial Theater was the 1925 silent comedy Seven Days, starring Lillian Rich, Creighton Hale, and Lilyan Tashman (above).

A unique feature of the Mayflower Theater was the large glass windows located upstairs next to the projection booth through which audience members could watch films and listen to the muffled dialogue while waiting in line to use the restrooms. They were much appreciated by cinephiles with weak bladders as the line was frequently long because there were only two single-occupancy restrooms.

Almost a half a century after it opened the Mayflower Theater was in decline. When I moved to Eugene in 1976 the seats were rickety and the seat cushions had lost their cushiness. The red curtains covering the walls were dirty and frayed and the auditorium was either stiflingly hot or freezing cold depending on the weather outside.

But this was funky old Eugene just before home video hit the market and in 1977, after the first-run films that played during “normal” hours, there were also movies playing every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at midnight for the discounted price of 98 cents. Movies like Harold and Maude, A Clockwork Orange, The Last Picture Show, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail came and went and then came again.

Monty Python’s masterpiece of absurdity was a film I’d partly seen with my mother and sister in Berkeley in 1975, but the experience was interrupted when my mother’s housemate, Bianca, freaked out when the Black Knight was being dismembered by King Arthur. She was too sensitive to handle the comedic violence and she guilt-tripped our mother to bail on the film, even though we were enjoying the movie.

“Tis but a scratch.”

In 1977 I finally saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail in its entirety at the Mayflower Theater with two of my Roosevelt Junior High School friends which, in retrospect, was a better time to see it.

Always at risk of closing due to diminishing ticket sales, the Mayflower Theater took a risk on being the first movie theater in Eugene to screen a poorly promoted unknown film that was released on May 25, 1977. The previous year I’d seen a 30-second TV spot for it that blew me away so I sort of knew what to expect. That film was called Star Wars and it became a smash hit that played to packed Eugene audiences throughout the entire year, generating a windfall of unexpected and overdue revenue. Hundreds of people in town returned to see Star Wars multiple times.

I cashed in bottles for nickels to pay for many of those screenings, collected cash trimming cannabis, made two bucks an hour strolling around downtown on Saturdays wearing a canvas sandwich board advertising the Eugene Saturday Market, and doing other odd jobs for people—anything to pay for my cinematic obsession.

By August, after my 13th birthday when I had to pay the adult ticket price, Star Wars was also playing at Cinema World at Valley River Center. I saw it there several times mostly because it was showing on a better screen with better sound and better seats. The first time, the manager at Cinema World didn’t believe me when I told him I was twelve. He said, “What’s your phone number?” I told him and he called my mother and asked her the dreaded question, “How old is your son?” I thought I was sunk but she didn’t miss a beat and said I was twelve. I could tell by the scowl he gave me when he hung up the phone that he didn’t believe either of us, but he let me in to see the show for the 12 and under ticket price.

At an October 31st showing back at the Mayflower there was an authentic looking Darth Vader flanked by two stormtroopers holding court in front of the theater and many people were dressed as other characters from the movie. That cosplay continued to be the norm long after Halloween and from then on there was always a Darth Vader with a stormtrooper entourage.

One very memorable evening early in November of 1977 I was in line at the Mayflower to see Star Wars (again) and there was a Hollywood film crew set up across the street in front of the Dr. A.W. Patterson House at 751 East 11th Avenue—a house that had been a fraternity in the 1960s—and that house would be immortalized in 1978 as the notorious Delta House fraternity featured in National Lampoon’s Animal House.

National Lampoon writer, Doug Kenney with Darth Vader in front of the Mayflower Theater circa 1977.

That night we witnessed a mannequin thrown out of the second-story window of the house and watched as Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst, two young actors we would get to know the following year as Pinto and Flounder, step over the body and walk up the steps.

In December 1978 The Rocky Horror Picture Show was screened for the first time as the Saturday Midnight Flick at the Mayflower, and it played every Saturday night at midnight for a very long time. How long? I don’t know, but it was playing in the winter of 1979, when I saw it for the first time (in drag) with a few girls I knew from drama class at South Eugene High School. The movie was such a successful money-maker for the Mayflower that the manager at the time, John Deskowitz, had a cavalier attitude about the extra work and cleaning cost from all the rice, popcorn, toast, toilet paper, hot dogs, and panties that were tossed around by audience members during the show.

Fast forward to the 1980s and the final days of the Mayflower Theater . . .

This picture was taken in December of 1985 and Back to the Future and White Knights were the last films to appear on the marquee.

Back To The Future, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, opened July 3, 1985, and I saw it for the first time on August 23rd, 1985, the day I returned to Eugene from misadventures I’ve written about elsewhere.

White Knights, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, was released on November 22, 1985.

As for the Mayflower Theater . . .

It was torn down by a demolition crew by order of Sacred Heart General Hospital on Monday, March 3, 1986, one day before a scheduled Eugene Historic Review Board hearing that could have resulted in the building being designated a historic landmark.

Flowers for Jean-Dominique.

I want to write. But . . .

Suddenly, I’m transported to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, twenty-five years in the past, and I’m standing by the grave of Jean-Dominique Bauby—paying my respects with a pot of chrysanthemums.

I open my journal and read some French words I’ve transcribed and translated into English, sourced from a book called Le Scaphandre et le Papillon. The English version is called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Derrière le rideau de toile mitée une clarté laiteuse annonce l’approche du petit matin.

Behind the linen curtain a milky clarity announces the approach of dawn.

J’ai mal aux talons, la tête comme une enclume, et une sorte de scaphandre qui m’enserre tout le corps.

My heels hurt, my head is like an anvil, and a sort of spacesuit seems to surround my whole body.

Ma chambre sort doucement de la pénombre. 

My room slowly emerges from the shadows of twilight. 

These sentences were “written” by a writer unable to use his hands to type words, communicate through gestures, or to speak words to be transcribed by another writer. The following italicized words are from the English version of the book:

No need to wonder very long where I am, or to recall that the life I once knew was snuffed out Friday, the eighth of December, last year.

Up until then, I had never even heard of the brainstem. I’ve since learned that it is an essential component of our internal computer, the inseparable link between the brain and the spinal cord. I was brutally introduced to this vital piece of anatomy when a cerebrovascular accident took my brain stem out of action.

The accident that rendered Jean-Dominique Bauby mute and immobile?

In the past, it was known as a massive stroke, and you simply died. But improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony. You survive, but you survive with what is so aptly known as “locked-in syndrome.” Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move.

But, how was Jean-Dominique able to communicate the words you’ve just read if he was unable to speak or move?

In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.


Of course, the party chiefly concerned is the last to hear the good news. I myself had twenty days of deep coma and several weeks of grogginess and somnolence before I truly appreciated the extent of the damage. I did not fully awake until the end of January. When I finally surfaced I was in room 119 of the Naval Hospital at Berck-sur-Mer, on the French Channel coast–the same Room 119, infused now with the first light of day, from which I write.

Enough rambling. My main task now is to compose the first of these bedridden travel notes so that I shall be ready when my publisher’s emissary arrives to take my dictation, letter by letter.

He writes these words by dictating his memoir, one letter at a time, to his clever and efficient conversational co-conspirator, Claude Mendibil, who lists the letters in accordance with their frequency in the French language.

In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph.

By a fortunate stroke of luck and intuition Jean-Do’s physical therapist noticed that he could blink his left eyelid—his paralyzed right eyelid had been sewed shut to prevent his eyeball from drying up—and she had devised a communication system called partner-assisted scanning, which utilized his singular muscular ability to dictate a beautiful memoir.

It is a simple enough system. You read off the alphabet (ESA version, not ABC) until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word, and then fragments of more or less intelligible sentences. That, at least, is the theory. In reality, all does not go well for some visitors. Because of nervousness, impatience, or obtuseness, performances vary in the handling of the code (which is what we call this method of transcribing my thoughts). Crossword fans and Scrabble players have a head start. Girls manage better than boys. By dint of practice, some of them know the code by heart and no longer even turn to our special notebook—the one containing the order of the letters and in which all my words are set down like the Delphic oracle’s.

And what are those travel notes of which Bauby babbles about? They’re excursions of the imagination, of course—the only recourse for a traveler physically bound and rooted in place like an oak tree. His thoughts branch out, stretching beyond the boundaries of place, allowing his mind (which he likens to a diving bell) to take flight like a butterfly.

You can wander off in space and time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court. You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and ambitions.

Ten months and two hundred thousand blinks later, Jean-Do completes his magnificient memoir and expires from pneumonia on March 9th, 1997, two days after his book is published.


Returning to the present and presented with my first thought—

I want to write . . .

The “but” is a needless word that must be omitted. I write without excuses.

Farewell, Mr Loaf

Meat Loaf died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. For some he was an acquired taste. But, there is no denying the raw power of his passion when he performed.

In the guise of Eddie—a 1950s era biker and greaser channeling Elvis and John Belushi—Mr Loaf burst out of a deep freeze, frenetically riding a motorcycle and chewing the scenery in The Rocky Horror Picture Show; an audacious cult movie from 1975 still playing in cinemas today.

He was loud and brash but he could also be surprisingly tender. And, hot patootie bless my soul, that loaf of meat could Rock n’ Roll!

And sweat. Profusely.

Known mostly for his rock ballads and duets, and for his rock masterpiece, Bat Out Of Hell, Mr Loaf’s loftiest moment arrived in 1999 with his vulnerable performance in Fight Club; which normalized man boobs, male tears, and men hugging other men. His name is Robert Paulson.

In 2020, the self-proclaimed sex god came out as a climate change denier and, worse, a critic of environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Meat Loaf turned rancid for some fans after the duo performed their disastrous rock ballad duet, You’re Brainwashed, Climate Change Isn’t Real / No, I’m Not, Yes, It Is.

But that expression of opposing worldviews shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing his humanity. We don’t all share the same palate. Now is the time to put aside the main course and focus on the mashed potatoes and other side dishes. And come together to eulogize and celebrate the positive aspects of his stage and screen personae.

Meat Loaf. At the end of the meal, all we can say is that he was a man like any other man in some ways and unlike other men in other ways.

Adieu, Monsieur Loaf.

I hope there’s a piece of you still out there. Somewhere. Back in deep freeze.

A piece that may come back again as leftovers.

May flights of bats sing thee to thy roast.

We await the second helping.

Eagle Park Slim

It’s raining today in my corner of California and rain always makes me think of the blues. And the blues, plus the rain, makes me think of Oregon—where I grew up during my teen and young adult years in a city called Eugene.

I was 13 in the summer of 1977 and still listening mostly to The Beatles and The Who, but I was getting tired of all the usual stuff I listened to and was primed for some new music. Billy Joel’s The Stranger had recently been released and it was fast becoming a favorite. Then I discovered Mississippi John Hurt and Lightning Hopkins and was instantly hooked.

Later that same year, a movie called Animal House was being filmed in town and it’s star, John Belushi, met a local blues artist named Curtis Salgado, who was playing a gig at the Eugene Hotel with his band, The Nighthawks. That meeting was the spark that inspired the first appearance of two characters named Jake and Elwood Blues on Saturday Night Live, which spawned a couple of hit singles that were played frequently by radio disc jockeys.

A couple of years later in 1980, The Blues Brothers was a hit movie and the soundtrack for it became hugely popular, especially in Eugene. The film reinvigorated the careers of soul and blues legends such as James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few.

1980 was the year of the blues and it was also the year that Eagle Park Slim came to town. Slim’s motto was “ain’t no time to hate” and his mission was “peace through music.” He’s one of the many hard-working blues musicians in the country that never achieved fame and in my opinion it’s a damn shame.

Eagle Park Slim was thirty-eight years old when he moved from Colorado to Oregon and he got to work immediately as a blues busker. Slim was a seasoned professional that immediately made himself at home playing on the streets of downtown Eugene and around the university campus. Soon he was booking gigs in coffeehouses and bars and at the Eugene Saturday Market, with just a guitar and a kazoo.

Autry McNeace was born on January 11th, 1942, in Eagle Park, Illinois. He grew up with the blues and started playing at his mother’s club, The Village Tavern, in 1954. I don’t know when he took on the name Slim to go with the name of his city of birth but he was still in Eagle Park in the 1960s, working a regular gig on Sundays at Leo’s Tavern, playing guitar with Little Walter J. & His Hard Working Phantoms.

Slim expanded his territory to East St. Louis and across the river in St. Louis, playing with blues pianist, Johnnie Johnson. During his lifetime, Slim would also play along with Chuck Berry, James Brown, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson, Percy Mayfield, Ike Turner, Little Walter, Joe Cocker, Keb Mo, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m sure I’ve left out many other famous and well-established artists.

In the 1970s, before he settled in Eugene, Slim moved to Colorado, and Eagle Park Slim & The Mile High Blues Band were the house band at an after hours club in Denver, with a regular gig Thursday to Saturday from 11pm to 3am.

I was fourteen or fifteen when I first met Slim and heard him play the blues and I got to know him better after I graduated from high school, when I was working at Prince Pückler’s, an ice cream parlor with one shop at 8th & Willamette downtown and another on 13th Avenue, across the street from Poppi’s Greek Taverna and Lenny’s Nosh Bar. I worked at both locations and I always treated Slim to a cup of coffee whenever he came into the one of the shops.

The free coffee for Slim continued over the years and our conversations continued when I worked at the Coffee Corner kiosk at 5th Street Public Market in the mid-eighties. My jam on the boom box in the kiosk was usually blues (I was also obsessed with Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive) and I think he appreciated my musical taste when he sat at table in front of the kiosk. If it wasn’t Slim sitting there it was often Steve Ibach and Teddy “Honey Boy” Roy of The Soulsations, a new group they had formed with my pal Joe Lewis that was swiftly becoming the hottest band in town.

In those days you could go out almost any night and hear the blues played live for free or so cheap that it didn’t matter. There was a Monday night Blues Jam at Old Taylor’s on campus that you could see for fifty cents. I wasn’t hanging out with friends at Lenny’s Nosh Bar I was probably out somewhere else listening to the blues.

And Eagle Park Slim always seemed to be around—a warm presence that made everyone around him feel happy. It’s funny, blues has a rep for making people feel sad but hearing Slim play the blues was more like the antidote for sadness.

I recently called Slim’s long-time friend, Jan Brown, and asked her to share some recollections for this piece I’m writing. She told me she met Slim in 2002 at a bus stop and he was boldly flirtatious, singing a Lou Rawls song to her while they were waiting for the bus. Not knowing he was a professional, she complimented him on his singing voice, and he introduced himself and gave her a flyer advertising his next gig with The Vipers, a group he played with that also featured the aforementioned Steve Ibach from the defunct Soulsations.

Eagle Park Slim and Jan Brown

Jan said she was a busy single mom at the time, and didn’t get out much to hear live music, but she recognized his talent immediately. They rode the bus together and before he got off at his stop he gave her his phone number and told her to give him a call sometime. Later that day, at the adult foster home where she was working as a caregiver, she showed the flyer to a couple of women and they both squealed with excitement. They were both Eagle Park Slim fan girls. So, at their urging. Jan called Slim and went out to see his show. It was the beginning a beautiful friendship and partnership that lasted for twelve years—until they parted amicably in 2014.

Eagle Park Slim & The Mile High Blues Band. Denver, CO. 1975.

I also called Slim’s friend, Randy Layton, who released Slim’s first professionally produced album, Northwest Blues, a 1998 CD that had the appearance of a vinyl record from the 1960s. Randy wanted to give Slim an album to sell when he was busking—one that looked professional—and it was an album that Slim owned outright after the first pressing. The album has 22 tracks that Randy says “was pretty much a compilation of cassettes he gave out in the streets in the early days of busking.” Randy (also an accomplished writer) wrote the liner notes.

Mardi Gras Saturday at the Winter Blues Festival (2012)

A few random things about Slim:

He frequently wore a fedora, like any self-respecting blues man, and quite often a tie-dyed shirt with dress pants. Like a true Eugenean, he loved his tie-dyed shirts and he had a multitude in his closet.

He usually arrived to his evening gigs by taxi. Often a friend would drop him off at a street corner when he was busking. If he was playing at a bar and you offered to buy him a drink he might accept a snifter of brandy.

At home, he had a poster of Jimi Hendrix on his wall and another picture of Jimi in the window near the recliner where he always sat. Jan says that Slim revered Hendrix.

One last thing of interest I should mention. Eagle Park Slim is remembered by many in Eugene as the first person they met when they arrived. And most of those people will tell you how much they loved him, and talk about the impact he made on their experience in Eugene. And Slim loved them back. And, most of all, he loved Eugene.


It’s a year later and I just found my notes from the January 2022 call I made to Jan Brown. I might roll some of this stuff into another revision of this piece but for now, here’s the raw material, if anyone is interested:

Slim mentored a young musician named Andy Strange who would later have a band called Andy Strange and the Strangetones. Slim was very proud of Andy.

Slim loved the ladies that danced at his shows.

Slim and Jan never lived together but they were in a relationship for awhile. Whenever she left after visiting him he sang “Hate to See You Go” or “Baby Don’t Leave.” Sometimes he called her his wife because he didn’t want to call her his manager, though she did a lot with helping him with booking shows. Jan learned how to use a computer from helping Slim put together flyers and book shows. Jan said it gave her a purpose. “He gave me a reason to learn to use a computer.”

Slim was cautious about playing in Springfield. Once, he and Jan were looking into booking a show in Springfield and they were walking through downtown and he said, “Don’t hold my hand.” He had experienced some racism in Springfield and was cautious about appearances.

He always liked to play with his band on his birthday.

Slim had one son, who lives in Denver.

He was always excited when he was on television. He’d bring over some black velvet cake to share and some chicken wings from Dairy Mart.

His influences: Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Joe Cocker, Keb Mo, The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

He recorded “Baby Don’t Let Me Go Homeless” with Keb Mo and was payed in classic fashion through Western Union.

He didn’t like to fly, prefering travel by train.

He was a Rodney Dangerfield fan and memorized his jokes. He named Jan’s cats after ex-girlfriends and she named her chijuaja Rodney Dangerfield.

He had pocket bottles of brandy, loved fried chicken.

Slim died in his sleep suddenly during a heatwave in August 2016. He was under a lot of stress from moving and his heart just gave out on him. He’d had two heart surgeries that gave him an extra ten years than what he was expecting and had a pacemaker placed nine months before he died.

All of the songs he wrote came from his daily experiences and feelings and he made most of his money, just enough to get by, through busking.

He loved the rain but he loved the sunshine too because that’s when people came out and he loved to be around people and watch people. He loved to tell stories about the places he played.

Slim at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta (July 10, 2011)

Happy New Year!

Good news!

yOS 2.021, the obsolete year running in the chronometer of your biological operating system, was updated to yOS 2.022 at precisely midnight on 31 December and installed at 12:01 in the morning of the first day of January, replacing the old year with a new year.

But, is it really a new year?

Users should be aware that downloading and installing yOS 2.022 may not result in a better or more efficient operating system.

In fact, it’s possible the yOS 2.022 update will be incompatible with the chronological operating systems of many people, particularly individuals that frequently tell others to live in the present moment. These people may be resistant to the new update as they are running presentism software and they function in a world wherein neither the future nor the past exist.

Likewise, persons running eternalism software, which allows them to experience time simultaneously and operate in a reality wherein all points in time are equally real, will likely have issues with the update.

These potential issues have prompted some people to suggest that, if time is a construct humans invented to prevent everything from happening all at once, the words Happy New Year should come with a trigger warning, like the words, Merry Christmas and Make America Great Again.

Those critics claim that calling out Happy New Year to someone is a vocal form of chrono-harassment and adds insult to injury to all self-proclaimed slaves of time that have been subjected to cultural conditioning to perceive time in a linear fashion.

This update is not a restart, a reset, or a reboot.

And, if users believe they can change fundamental functionality?

Previous yearly updates have proven the premise that promises can be broken. Be prepared for possible glitches, crashes, energy drains, overheating, application instability, and problems connecting.

The “new” year will not contain any anthropomorphic features, despite reports of a decrepit man passing a figurative torch to a cherubic baby.

May you experience the continuance of a year.

Uncle Ray

6 March 1984

An old grizzled drunk from a television western stumbles out of the tube and staggers smack into the middle of a milieu of vagrants one might encounter in a Bukowski novel. It’s Uncle Ray, rolling into the courtyard with a shopping cart stuffed with clothing and other items of unspeakable origin.

“Uncle Ray, is it true you’re an undercover agent with the CIA,” I say.

Ask me to guess Ray’s age and I’d say he was born sometime between the beginning of the William Taft presidency and the year they started putting toy surprises in Cracker Jack boxes. I figure he’s something north of seventy, with an extra decade or two of hard living in his back pocket.

“I’ll never tell,” Ray says, but that’s a lie. Sometimes you can’t stop Ray from telling.

Uncle Ray claims to have served in both the second world war and the Korean conflict and some say he’s a war hero. Others regard him as a sage, a holy fool, a royal pain-in-the-ass, and a mad saint. Most agree he’s a person squarely in the back row.

“If you’re looking for Hershel, he’s not here.” Ray’s face lights up when I mention the name.

Hershel is Uncle Ray’s guardian angel and Ray is drawn to him like a homing pigeon. Whenever Ray staggers into the courtyard, from sickness instead of drunkenness, Hershel is there to escort him to White Bird Clinic to get treatment. If saints exist, they are mere samaritans compared to Hershel Bloom.

“Nah, I’m not looking for Hershel,” says Ray. “Is Lenny here?”

I raise my eyebrow. Lenny hates Ray with a passion usually reserved for drunken frat boys and Ronald Reagan. Ask anyone that was around the day Lenny Nathan shook his finger with rage at Uncle Ray and yelled, “You stay away from my place or I’ll kill ya!” The old derelict is definitely not looking for Lenny.

“Not yet,” I say. “But, he’s on his way soon.” Ray grunts with satisfaction.


Someone calls my name. It’s Sally, announcing my lunch from the kitchen of Lenny’s Nosh Bar.

“Gotta go, Ray,” I say.

As I get up to leave, Uncle Ray is looking forlorn and gazing mournfully across the courtyard at Poppi’s Greek Taverna. I suddenly realize exactly who he is looking for and the reason he’s in the courtyard. He’s here for his chicken and chocolate fix from Poppi, who feeds him on the regular from the back door of the restaurant. Provided he’s sober. If Ray shows up in the courtyard drunk, she gives him a cup of hot black coffee and tells him to go away and come back when he’s lucid.

Inside, I ask Sally what time Lenny is arriving.

“Anytime now,” she says. “Are you worried he might read Uncle Ray the riot act?”

“Well, yeah, but Lenny told me to stop in later today,” I say. I tell Sally I saw Lenny at the store earlier in the day as he was unloading his basket at the register and I saw the ingredients he was buying and made the logical deduction. I tell her how the conversation went down.

Me: ”Making brownies?”

Lenny: “Yeah.”

Me: “. . .”

Lenny: “Marijuana brownies.”

Me: “Yeah, I figured as much.”

“So you’re here for an off-the-menu item,” she says. I give her a big grin and nod my head. She whistles and says, “Brave man.”

“Not really,” I say. “Are they super strong?”

“Oh yes,” she says. “Lenny gave me a pot brownie the first night I worked the counter. I was on probationary status and I have never been so stoned in my life.”

“Trial by reefer,” I say. She laughs.

“The next day he called and, before he could say anything, I apologized all over myself and asked how badly I’d done. The whole shift was a blur.”

“How badly did you do?”

“I dunno,” she says. “Lenny just chuckled and said ‘yeah, that was pretty good shit’ and officially gave me the job.”


I notice Uncle Ray through the window, standing a respectful distance from Lenny’s. He’s lighting a cigarette, which is gripped tightly between straw-colored fingers, and his hand is trembling.

“I think Ray is waiting for Poppi to show up and open the restaurant,” I say, as I head over to the booth next to the jukebox.

“Someone should probably tell Ray that it’s Tuesday,” Sally says.

“I’m sure he knows it’s Tuesday,” I say. “I sure do, because it’s ninety-nine cents for hot fudge sundaes all day at Puckler’s today, and it’s going to be a mob scene tonight. I’m heading over after I eat.”

“I’m not talking about your ice cream parlor orgy across the street,” she says. “Tuesday is also the only day of the week Poppi’s is closed. Ray is waiting for Godot.”

She’s right, I completely forgot about the significance of Tuesday. Beyond my own selfish connection to the day. So, I set my sandwich on the table and head for the door to break the bad news. Dan Schmid is already on the job, standing in the doorway of the restaurant. Dan is around because he works as the cleaner at Poppi’s every Tuesday, an eight-hour job that requires him to thoroughly clean everything in the place, from kitchen surfaces and appliances to all the curtains covering the windows.

“It’s Tuesday, Uncle Ray,” Dan says. “Sorry, amigo, the joint is closed today.”

Dinner plans thwarted, Ray seems ready to launch into one of his cantankerous rants against a cruel world that has conspired against him since the end of the second world war.

“There’s nobody around to cook up some chicken for you,” Dan says. “But, I can get you some hot chocolate.” Ray grunts and seems mollified. Dan goes back inside the restaurant to fetch Ray’s hot cocoa. I turn to Sally.

“How did you know,” I say.

“It’s not the first time Ray has shown up for chicken and chocolate on the wrong day,” she says.